The disagreement between his advisers in the West Wing and those on Fox News aren’t about whether he should, but about timing and stated justification.
Fox News anchor Laura Ingraham, once a top recruit to serve as White House press secretary, was early out of the gate on Friday with urgent advice for the president.
“Rod Rosenstein must be fired today,” she tweeted, after the New York Times reported that the deputy attorney general had floated the idea of wearing a wire in the Oval Office and removing the president from office by invoking the 25th Amendment.
Ingraham, one of the 47 feeds that President Donald Trump follows on Twitter, tagged his handle in her tweet to make sure he didn’t miss her edict.
The “fire Rosenstein” sentiment — one she eventually deleted with no explanation — was publicly shared by Fox News colleagues and Trump pals like Judge Jeanine Pirro, as well as other close allies with the president’s ear, who did not walk back their comments.
But Trumpworld is no monolith — despite the perception that Fox News functions as an outside communications shop — and the divisions were on display Friday as differing opinions were blasted out in an effort to influence the president’s thinking after the bombshell story.
The varied reactions to the story illustrate the president’s dilemma: The West Wing and Trump’s top outside allies may be united in the belief that the president should fire his deputy attorney general, but they are deeply divided about the timing of the action and what the president’s stated cause for the firing should ultimately be.
Later Friday night, Fox News host and Trump adviser Sean Hannity spoke directly to the president on his evening broadcast, giving the opposing view from Ingraham.
“I have a message for the president tonight,” he said. “Under zero circumstances should the president fire anybody.”
He added: “They’re hoping that they can turn this politically into their equivalent of a Friday Night Massacre,” a reference to President Richard Nixon’s demand in 1973 that his attorney general fire the special prosecutor leading the Watergate investigation. That act that led to a cascade of resignations at the Department of Justice.
A senior White House official also backed up Hannity’s more cautious tone by warning against any dramatic action. In an interview, the official called Rosenstein a “straight shooter” and said his denial of the facts outlined by the New York Times was believable.
Hannity, according to a source familiar with his thinking, does believe that Trump should fire Rosenstein — eventually. But like other Trump allies, he is pressuring the president that a better strategy than a reaction to a new story is to order him to release all materials related to the Hill investigation that prove there is a deep state opposition to him. Those allies said they expect that Rosenstein would refuse to do so, and that would be a better predicate for his firing than reacting to a news story in what Trump likes to call the “failing New York Times.”
It was also not immediately clear what motivated Hannity’s direct-to-camera plea on Friday night. One close Trump ally noted that Hannity sometimes uses his broadcast to speak directly to the president after the two men, who consult each other often, have had a disagreement on an issue.
Meanwhile, the “fire Rosenstein” faction of Trumpworld was equally adamant that the president should take action.
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